Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Miami's Cuban Community Splits over Clinton Shift on Refugees

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Miami's Cuban Community Splits over Clinton Shift on Refugees

Article excerpt

WHEN Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz threatened to open the door for discontented Cubans to leave for the United States, the leadership of Cuban American community here responded that a massive influx of Cubans must not be allowed to happen.

But when Mr. Castro did open the door and President Clinton responded on Friday by scrapping the 28-year-old preferential treatment Cuban refugees received from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, it caught many in the Cuban exile community here by surprise.

There were demonstrations in the Little Havana sector of Miami on Friday and Saturday to protest the president's decision. Protesters carried anti-Clinton signs and placards that read "Miami, Si! Guantanamo, No!"

The protests illustrated a split within the Cuban American community. While many were outraged at the new policy, leaders of the Cuban American community in Miami have consistently warned Clinton not to play into Castro's hands by encouraging an influx of refugees. In 1980, when Castro encouraged any Cubans who wanted to leave to do so, many Cuban Americans took boats to the Cuban port of Mariel to pick up their relatives and others. Now, while community leaders do not want Castro to use the exodus to quell internal pressure, many Cuban Americans are moved to rescue their relatives on rafts.

Thomas Boswell, a professor at the University of Miami who studies the Cuban American community, calls it the "heart and mind discrepancy."

The Cuban American leadership, he says, is being pragmatic. "They realize the US cannot accept everybody. They know Cubans are treated better than everybody {refugees from other nations}. And they also know Castro is controlling the exodus."

A poll of Dade County residents released by the Florida International University on Saturday show 56.7 percent of Cuban Americans support the president, while 86.4 percent of the non-Cuban American majority do.

Clinton announced that Cuban refugees will no longer be allowed into the US. They will be intercepted at sea and sent to the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to await for admittance in other safe havens. And as with Haitians, those Cubans who make it to Florida will be detained. …

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